Photo C/O Grace Michael 

The setting is simple: only a staircase, two platforms and a bed made of crystals. The show is an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream written by Trisha Gregorio, directed by Ian McIntosh and performed by the McMaster Thespian Company. I have both seen and performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream multiple times, and this adaptation was one of the best I’ve seen. Several of the roles in the show are cast as another gender, creating more roles for women, and also a number of queer relationships. In doing so, the play is updated to reflect modern life and love, while still paying homage to the source text.

Several of the roles in the show are cast as another gender, creating more roles for women, and also a number of queer relationships. In doing so, the play is updated to reflect modern life and love, while still paying homage to the source text.

Gregorio’s adaptation sparkles, breathing life into this 400-year-old show. Unlike the original, the show begins with a young girl named Robin falling asleep and waking up in the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the fairy Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck. Gregorio replaces the beginning of the original play with an opening scene in the ‘real world’ where Robin’s sister is preparing for her wedding day, immediately setting the scene and giving us a sense of the tone for the play. This is a clever choice, as the original opening of Midsummer tends to drag on. The middle of the play is largely untouched, before the final scene where Robin wakes up just in time for her sister’s wedding. This final scene is especially effective, as it essentially modernizes the final scene of Midsummer, putting the words into a modern context. This does an excellent job of combining the modern parts of the play with the classical.

Many of the male roles have been swapped out in this production, including Theseus, Lysander, and all of the Mechanicals — the comedy relief. This is not only a good way to update the production, it is also an interesting callback to the original play, as in the Renaissance every role would’ve been played by men, with young boys playing the women. This adaptation flips that on its head, claiming most of the roles for women.

The whole cast shines, but in particular Jesse Adams as Bottom/Pyramus and Isis Lunsky as Flute/Peaseblossom/Thisbe stole the show. My voice was hoarse from laughing so hard. Their final scene as Pyramus and Thisbe is a true tour de force, with the two alternating between rolling on the floor, dramatically addressing the audience and being forcibly dragged off the stage, reminiscent of old cartoons when a comedian would get pulled off stage by a hook. I found myself impatiently waiting for their scenes to come, fascinated to see what they would do next.

The show balanced its humour with raw emotion. Kat Sliwowicz as Helena and Jessica Quino as Hermia took my breath away as their friendship fell apart, transitioning from heartfelt expressions of affection to trying to physically tear each other apart. I was unsure how effective this would be, given that Hermia and Helena’s initial scene talking about their friendship was cut from the adaptation, but Sliwowicz and Quino’s emotional deliveries more than made up for that absence.

The biggest flaw I saw with the subplot of the four lovers —  Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius — was that Sliwowicz and Quino had more chemistry with one another than they had with their love interests. It was almost a disappointment that they didn’t end up together. The final reunion of Hermia with Lysander and Helena with Demetrius falls a little flat after the fights between the lovers, making it difficult to root for the couples at the end.

The technical aspects of the show were simple, but effective. The costumes transition easily from one world to another, with bridesmaid gowns becoming Athenian dresses. The setting is also fairly sparse, with only a few set pieces. However, this very cleverly leaves room for the antics of the cast, including Lunsky’s backwards somersault and Quino launching herself across the stage. Each set piece feels intentional and is used effectively.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest deviations from the original play was in changing the genders of several characters. Nearly every character became queer. Rumours have long circulated about Shakespeare’s sexuality, but the fact remains that he wrote 126 sonnets about an attractive young man and a 25 additional sonnets about a woman, both with similarly romantic themes, indicating that he may have been bisexual. In many ways, Gregorio’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens up this debate, inviting audience members to see themselves and their identities represented in the play in ways they couldn’t before.

In many ways, Gregorio’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens up this debate, inviting audience members to see themselves and their identities represented in the play in ways they couldn’t before.

Adaptations of Shakespeare can vary wildly, from stuffy four hour, word-perfect runs, to SparkNotes-style abbreviations that lose the meaning. There is a fine line between monotone delivery and over-exaggerating every line, which this production navigates perfectly. The original iambic pentameter is as easy to understand as modern English, making this show a delight for both Shakespeare enthusiasts and people who suffered through high-school English class. 

Overall, McMaster Thespian Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a delightful romp through the land of the fairies well worth the price of admission. Settle in, sit back and get ready for an evening full of tears, laughter and magic. 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from Jan. 24 to Feb. 1 at the Robinson Memorial Theatre in Chester New Hall. You can visit their event page on Facebook for more information and show times. Tickets are $14 for students and $17 for general admission.

 

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Photos C/O Trevor Copp

By: Jackie McNeill

Tottering Biped Theatre, a Hamilton-based theatre company founded by Trevor Copp, has reached over 600,000 views on a TED Talk about ‘liquid lead dancing,’ a gender neutral form of partner dancing.

Several McMaster alumni are involved in the theatre company, particularly with their summer Shakespeare work held at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

The theatre is social justice-focused, devising works that have addressed issues like poverty, same sex marriage and mental health and different interpretations of Shakespeare.

However, as prominent as the theatre’s work is, it is not what Copp is arguably best known for.

In 2015, he and his colleague Jeff Fox delivered a TED Talk in Montreal on a dance concept they developed called ‘liquid lead dancing.’

Liquid lead dancing, a form of gender neutral partner dance, was born out of Copp’s discomfort with the systems and rules he was perpetuating as a ballroom dance teacher.

As explained in their TED Talk, the strictly gendered partner dancing promotes a relationship shaped by dictation, where the man leads and the woman follows.

He and Fox developed liquid lead dancing to turn this dictation into a negotiation.

It proposes a system where lead and follow are exchanged throughout the course of the dance regardless of gender,” Copp explained.

This change of form will hopefully become normalized as a dance and help to normalize healthy relationships outside of partner dance as well.

The liquid lead dance between Copp and Fox morphed into a play about creating the first dance for a same sex wedding.

After a successful run of the play, a former student contacted Copp about presenting their dance form as a TED talk.

Copp and Fox’s TED talk was picked up by TED.com, and has over 600,00 views to date.

Despite the success of the TED talk, Copp admits that it has not been all smooth sailing promoting liquid lead dancing.

“Most people are comfortable with their given role, and, even though they aren't particularly traditional in their thinking, allow it to decide their roles as dancers. There's comfort in the familiar. I don't begrudge it at all. I just think that if you're going to recreate a culturally outdated form you should be conscious of it by making a choice to do so as opposed to sleepwalking your way through the dance form.”

Acknowledging that the work he had done with liquid lead dance is not that well-known in Hamilton, Copp is aiming to work harder at spreading the dance form in the future.

As explained in the TED Talk, liquid lead dancing is not about dance alone.

By addressing the strict roles perpetuated in partner dancing, Copp and Fox have begun to address the erasure of non-binary people and same-sex couples in dance, in addition to the exclusion of Black, Asian and other non-white bodies.

By bringing these issues that are prevalent within ballroom and partner dance to a wider audience with the TED Talk and Copp’s theatre company, the same issues that are prevalent in everyday life stand a better chance at being addressed.

Copp has performed liquid lead dance at conferences throughout Ontario, New York and Ireland and is looking forward to next presenting at a conference on consent and sexuality with Planned Parenthood in Virginia.

 

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When the list of nominees for the 2015 Cannes Film Festival came out, I was as excited for Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth as I was for Mark Osborne’s Le Petit Prince. Having closely watched both Roman Polanski’s 1971 Macbeth and the modernized 2010 British television adaptation, you’d think I’d be tired of the play by now, but Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy once again proves itself a whirlwind of a masterpiece regardless of how it’s delivered.

If I had to describe the film in one word it would be “desolate.” The film begins in the silence of a haunting funeral, and while a battle cry eventually breaks the startling quiet, the monotony is never quite shaken off. For most of the movie, lines are murmured under breaths, sound effects are scarce and background music far in between, and the end result produces scenes eerily reminiscent of the earliest days of Soviet Montage. With scenes flashing by — shots of the three witches, brief flashes of the apparitions — without a single note or word in the background, Macbeth is almost suffocating in its dark and dismal emptiness as the strange sombre mood is maintained to the very end.

Director Justin Kurzel, however, uses the monotony in the first half to his advantage. As with the battle cry shattering the silence in the film’s first act, this pattern continues in its most significant scenes. A personal favourite is the subdued music that underlines Macbeth’s soliloquy as he walks, dagger in hand, to King Duncan’s room — music that escalates to a discordant peak as the stabbing scene plays out, effectively silencing the actors and drowning out the sounds of the struggle. By the end of the scene, the music fades, the film plunges back into its unsettling silence, and Macbeth’s bloody hands and King Duncan’s dead body soundlessly dominate the screen. The dissonance of quiet and sound reappears in the second half, when the loud cries of “Hail Macbeth!” are juxtaposed with the silence in between each cry. The startling juxtaposition frames the movie in a psychological context I haven’t seen in another adaptation, with Macbeth’s rapidly loosening grasp on reality spiralling blatantly out of his control with each sudden burst of sound in what is otherwise a silent scene. This time, it is not Macbeth unleashing the sounds of fury, and instead he is the one left in a suffocating, artificial silence.

With Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy all having previously tackled the controversial role of the thane-turned-king, Michael Fassbender is the last of the X-Men Professor X and Magneto quartet to take his turn at Macbeth. Fassbender’s Macbeth is fierce and savage, more unhinged than Patrick Stewart’s war period Macbeth and devoid of Jon Finch’s complex vulnerability in the 1971 film. This Macbeth is beast-like even in the deafening silence. By the last act, however, he is despaired and half-gone, his furious soliloquies that are usually spoken in rising volume are instead delivered barely above a whisper. The end product is mystifying, as rare as it is to see a Macbeth whose madness was not depicted to equal rabid screaming, and with this, Fassbender makes the role his and his alone. Alongside him is French actress Marion Cotillard, whose own Lady Macbeth is quiet but terrifying. She plays the role with a subdued, tender weariness, and her exhausted delivery seals the fatigued atmosphere of the film.

andy_macbeth2

What this version appears  to lack in consistent cacophony, it nevertheless made up for with its diegetic elements. Scenes alternate between high contrast and low contrast, and the film does not hold back in the required depiction of brutality. Kurzel’s Macbeth is not hesitant with its visual design and symbolism is laid on thick. It plays with symbolic colours, from the dark blacks and browns of Macbeth’s scenes to the blood red saturation of the finale that ultimately defined the film for me. Death hangs above the narrative constantly, setting up for the intended catharsis Macbeth’s death is meant to trigger. As the film reaches its end, the music rises, and the colours become increasingly saturated, until the dark red credits start rolling on screen.

For all that the movie was remotely and desolately silent, it kept me on edge. I was always leaning in to see more and hear more, and with that in mind, I’d like to say Kurzel’s Macbeth delivered more than it disappointed. “It is a tale told by an idiot,” goes one of the most famous lines in the play, despairingly whispered in this one, “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” What this adaptation of Macbeth appeared to lack in sound, it made up for in silent fury, resulting in a version that may be a walking shadow of the story, but one that definitely does not signify nothing.

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Jemma Wolfe
Executive Editor

Q: Why MSND? 

A: I think it is one of the funniest plays ever written. I also felt it would be a good vehicle to explore issues of gender and sexuality in our times.

Q: Why do you think Shakespeare’s work continues to resonate with modern audiences? 

A: Shakespeare wrote for his time, not for all time. His work has lasted because throughout history theatrical buy cialis producers have edited his plays to suit the tastes and morals of their day. In 18th century productions, Hermia and Lysander were accompanied into the woods by a chaperone because no respectable lady would go alone to the woods with her lover. We are simply following in that tradition. Shakespeare’s plays are also particularly complex representations of his society’s social attitudes and this complexity makes it easier to find resonances between his text and our own very different world. Their complexity leaves them open to various interpretations.

Q: Why mix up the genders of the characters?

A: Through our research on the project we came to the conclusion that the categories male and female were inventions of Western culture that limited our understanding of the complexity of gender identity and sexualities. We also wanted to disrupt the more conservative, patriarchal elements of Shakespeare’s text. In Shakespeare’s play, Titania submits to her husband’s will, in ours the significance of this moment is somewhat changed.

Q: Was there anything that surprised you along the production process? 

A: The openness of the cast and creative team to quite radical ideas has made this project a joy. I have learned so much from the students on this one and I am filled with hope about our future.

Sarah O'Connor
Staff Reporter

One of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, focuses on four Athenian lovers who are controlled and manipulated by fairies in a forest. With the many characters and interwoven subplots, the play can be mind-boggling for everyone – at least for the first few scenes.

Taking a new stance on an old classic, Dr. Cockett and his Theatre & Film 3S03 students’ production hopes to “unsettle normative gender dichotomies.” They use cross-casting and gender reversing for some characters in order to make the audience re-evaluate their views of gender, sexuality, and power. I can say with full confidence that Dr. Cockett and his team of students were able to achieve this and much more.

The set was created by Emily Gallomazzei, Nick Kozij, and Ian Wilush. It creates the perfect, fuzzy line between dream and reality. The production makes fantastic use of multimedia, orchestrated by Joe Keca, and very cool lighting, which was done by Carissa Kaye, Anthony Scime, and Jennifer Rossetti.

The doubling of the roles for Theseus/Titania and Hyppolita/Oberon were both extremely powerful and effective decisions. The actors, Dan Megaffin and Julie Lane, showed immense acting skills through their ability to portray such diversity. The mischievous Puck was performed by Phillip Krusto and Claudia Spadafora in a stunning act of unison and with great humour. The chorus of fairies also bring to the production some very beautiful songs and hypnotic-like harmonies.

While the group of the four Athenian lovers were both hilarious and heartfelt it was Miles Greenberg who stole the show with his humourous and heartbreaking portrayal of Helena. The ‘group of actors’ played by Matt Blackshaw, David Jackson, Rex Jackson, Nick Kozij, Sasha Stevenson, and Ian Wilush were hysterical and a perfect end to the show. Ian Wilush’s portrayal of Bottom was also hilarious and endearing.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues its stage run in Robinson Memorial Theatre (CNH 101) until Nov. 16. viagra generic Tickets can be purchased at Compass or through SOTA at 905-525-9140 ext. 24246.

Sarah O'Connor
Staff Reporter

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known and loved comedies. It is cheaper viagra filled with fairies and magic, chaos and lovers who fall for the wrong person. When I found out it would be the Fall Major this year – suffice to say that I was very excited.

But there’s a twist. The familiar comedy will be performed with a cross-cast of characters, in some instances men playing women’s roles and women playing men’s roles. This production will seek to inspire the audience to reevaluate their views on gender, sexuality, and power.

“We hope to unsettle normative gender dichotomies,” director Dr. Peter Cockett explained about his production choices. “We’re trying to move people beyond the simple division of humanity into the male and the female, masculine and feminine, because those words are insufficient to describe the complexity of human identities and sexualities.”

Last week Dr. Cockett and his production team put on A Mid-Fall Night’s Workshop in Bridge’s Café, a cozy event where members of the McMaster community were invited to discuss and critique three scenes that were performed in a few different ways.

During the workshop, Dr. Cockett went through a detailed slide show about his production choice – what he hopes to achieve with the production, as well as a historical context of the play. Sexual undertones were always present in the play but were not openly recognized in Shakespeare’s time. “I think the approach we are taking is timely and pertinent to our society and I think it’s going to be a really exciting production,” Dr. Cockett explains. “The play is full of references to gender, power, and sexuality so it’s ripe for re-interpretation. Our production simply brings new perspectives to the text, exploring sexual identities that aren’t explicitly referenced in the play, but were still present in Shakespeare’s world as they are in our own.”

As I watched the preview scenes at the workshop, I was impressed and inspired by the actors’ maturity and deep understanding of their characters – they powerfully resisted gender and sexual dichotomies just as Dr. Cockett intended.

“At our auditions,” Cockett said, “we had a series of monologues for male and female characters and people could pick whichever they wanted. The roles they auditioned for weren’t determined by their sex...we were trying to keep as open a mind as possible throughout the audition process.”

The scenes at the outreach workshop were acted out twice, each time the actors portrayed their characters differently, and then asked the audience for feedback. The actors would perform one scene with either a heightened stereotype of masculinity or femininity while in another scene make it overly sexualized while the second would not. I enjoyed the discussion and hearing everyone’s opinions of what they liked and disliked about the scenes, how they related to each scene, and how the audience analyzed the scene on a deeper level.

Dr. Cockett believes McMaster students will enjoy the show for its comedy and for thinking outside the box: “I think it’s going to be very funny...I believe students are interested in relationships and sexuality and I think they’ll have a fun time and be provoked to think about themselves and their own relationships in new ways.”

Keep an eye out next week for an A Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired photo booth where students can dress-up and have their photos posted in the lobby of Robinson Memorial Theatre during show-dates. Students will also be asked to complete the following card: “what sexy is…” The Outreach Team will be in the Student Centre on Oct. 28th and 30th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be on stage from Nov. 7th to Nov. 16th and tickets can be purchased at Compass or through SOTA 905-525-9140 ext. 24246.

In a 1963 interview, Alfred Hitchcock admitted that he occasionally adapted stage plays, such as Dial M for Murder, when “the batteries [were] running dry.” Yet, there is no sign that fatigue turned Joss Whedon towards Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

On the contrary, the film seems to embody a surge of creativity. Whedon completed filming in only 12 days during a vacation from post-production work on The Avengers. The result is a joyous creation, which combines both reverence to Shakespeare’s themes and Whedon’s own unique flair.

The script presents two couples whose love certainly does not run smooth. Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) plots to unite Beatrice and Benedick (Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof), despite their bickering. Meanwhile, Don John (Sean Maher) schemes to drive apart the doe-eyed Hero and Claudio (Jillian Morgese and Fran Kranz). As these romances unfold, the characters partake in almost as much boozing as Gatsby’s guests from earlier in the summer.

All of the partying was captured at a single location: Whedon’s own home in Santa Monica, California. Whedon shoots these familiar surroundings cleverly, however, and the film never feels claustrophobic. The sets only become unconvincing when the action shifts to Inspector Dogberry’s headquarters. Nathan Fillion is delightful as the bumbling lawman, but his precinct is obviously a dining room with filing cabinets and black curtains.

The knowledge that Whedon shot the film in his own home also lends each scene a somewhat voyeuristic quality. I found myself peering around corners, for instance, to learn what type of bath towels the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer uses. Yet, the audience’s intrusive gaze is perfectly appropriate for a script that turns on eavesdropping.

Whedon’s black and white palette is similarly fitting. The technique imparts a timeless flavour that complements shifting Shakespearean dialogue into the modern era. Shakespeare could never have foreseen an interpretation of his work where plot information is conveyed via smartphone. Yet, this cast delivers the Bard’s lines effortlessly and naturally. Even four centuries later, one cannot resist smirking at Benedick’s inability to stop talking about the same woman he claims to despise.

Although there are no bloody duels in Much Ado About Nothing, Whedon’s adaptation nonetheless represents a gauntlet thrown down to other directors. With a brief shooting schedule, one location, and a cast of friends, Whedon has crafted a work of uncommon vitality. If the film was, in fact, a battery-recharging exercise, it should be thrilling to see what a fully powered Whedon produces next.

Sarah O’Connor / Silhouette Staff

If you aren’t an Anthropology or History major then you probably haven’t heard the big news over in England.

Last fall, a skeleton was uncovered under a parking lot in Leicester, England. After thorough scientific tests and DNA results the skeleton was discovered to be none other than that of King Richard III. A year-long project, archaeologists continue to examine the body but have also discovered something that will change history.

In William Shakespeare’s play Richard III, King Richard is described with a hunched back and a withered hand. But when uncovering the body, although the skeleton presents scoliosis spinal deformity, the archaeologists didn’t find exactly these descriptions on the skeleton. That leads to one question.

Why did Shakespeare exaggerate?

The answer was discovered quite quickly. During Shakespeare’s time the Tudors were in charge. The Tudors had killed King Richard III in a two-year battle known as the War of the Roses. When Richard III was killed, the Tudors reigned.

And what playwright would dare write anything against royalty? It is concluded that in order to please the Tudors, Shakespeare portrayed Richard III in a negative light with negative characteristics to favour his rulers.

But now we approach much deeper questions. Shakespeare also wrote of King Richard III as a tyrant, a man who murdered his nephews so he would stay king. If Shakespeare lied about his physical appearance, what else of Richard III is a lie?

As my dad told me, “History is written by the winners, not the losers.”

And since all we have are the winner’s stories, we have a biased history. A history in favour of those who won battles or reigned over countries isn’t a truthful history.

So if history (our past) is a lie, then who are we? How do we know that what we’ve grown up believing is the truth? You may be thinking, “But that’s just England, that isn’t Canada. We know our history.” But do we?

Do you remember learning about Residential Schools? The schools that First Nations children were forced to attend that taught them colonial values and forced them to forget their heritage? Do you remember learning about how the Indigenous children were emotionally, physically and sexually abused by their teachers? Do you remember that the residential schools opened in the 1840s and didn’t close until 1996? Were you taught that or did your tenth grade history teacher simply skim over that bit of Canada’s dark past?

Every country has its dark past, but we aren’t proud of it. But does that mean we should hide our heads in the sand, denying what we did, lying to future generations?

If our history is a lie, then who are we? How can we base ourselves on people and incidences that may not have happened or happened in very different ways?

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